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Communications and Climate Crisis (CMM2006)

StaffDr Alexander R. E. Taylor - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level5
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module aims to give you an excellent knowledge and critical understanding of the roles that communication technologies play in narrating and representing the climate crisis as well as the ways they materially contribute to the crisis. You will critically examine: the origins and historical development of the discourse of climate crisis; the environmental impact of digital infrastructure; mainstream news media reporting on climate breakdown; environmental documentaries; fictional representations of climate crisis and environmentalism in cinema, literature, and on social media platforms; critical theories of the environment, including eco-Leninism and liberal accounts that focus on the habits of individuals; and environmentalism and celebrity.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of key aspects of the rise of climate crisis discourse.
  • 2. Relate developments in communications technologies to broader historical forces and contexts.
  • 3. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the relevant scholarly literature on communication technologies and climate crisis.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Analyse key developments in communication technology
  • 5. Exercise sound judgement in researching, collecting, and interpreting information from a range of appropriate primary and secondary sources.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 6. Demonstrate skills in critical thinking and building a coherent argument in a video/visual essay.
  • 7. Question assumptions, to distinguish between fact and opinion, and to critically reflect your own learning process.

Syllabus plan

The module will take a thematic approach to the study of communication technology and climate crisis. Topics covered might include: the historical rise of climate crisis discourse; the environmental impact of digital communication technologies; news media and climate crisis reportage; fictional representations of climate crisis and environmentalism; documentary film and climate crisis; climate crisis and ideology; celebrity activism; activist celebrities; critical theories of the environment.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activities11Lectures
Scheduled Learning and Teaching activities11Seminars
Guided Independent Study35Seminar preparation
Guided Independent Study93Reading, research, and assessment preparation

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Video Essay plan500 words1, 2, 3, 5Oral feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Video Essay10010 minutes1-7Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Video Essay (10 minutes)Video Essay (10 minutes)1-7Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Born, D. (2019) Bearing Witness? Polar Bears as Icons for Climate Change Communication in National Geographic. Environmental Communication, 13(5): 649-663.
  • Brockington, D. (2013) Celebrity and the Environment. London: Zed.
  • Carruth, A. (2014) The Digital Cloud and the Micropolitics of Energy. Public Culture, 26(2): 339-364.
  • Cosgrove, D. (2008) Images and Imagination in 20th-Century Environmentalism: From the Sierras to the Poles. Environment and Planning A, 40: 1862-1880.
  • Cubitt, S., Hassan, R. and Volkmer, I. (2011) Does Cloud Computing Have A Silver Lining? Media, Culture & Society, 33(1): 149-148.
  • Dawson, A. (2017) Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change. London: Verso.
  • Gabrys, J. (2013) Digital rubbish: A natural history of electronics. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.
  • Hansen, A. and Cox, R. (2015) The Routledge Handbook of Environment and Communication. London and New York: Routledge.
  • Hansen, A. (2018) Environment, Media and Communication. London: Routledge.
  • Hayes, S. and O'Neill, S. (2021) The Greta Effect: Visualising Climate Protest in UK Media and the Getty Images Collections. Global Environmental Change, 71(102392): 1-11.
  • Kääpä, P. and Vaughan, H. (2022) Film and Television Production in the Age of Climate Crisis: Towards a Greener Screen. Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Klein, N. (2015) This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate. London: Penguin
  • Lewis, S. and Maslin, M. (2018) The Human Planet: How We Created the Anthropocene. London: Penguin
  • Malm, A. (2016) Fossil Capital: The Rise of Steam Power and the Roots of Global Warming. London: Verso.
  • Manzo, K. (2010) Imaging vulnerability: The iconography of climate change. Area, 42(1), 96–107.
  • Marks, L.U. (2020) Let's Deal with the Carbon Footprint of Streaming Media. Afterimage, 47(2): 46-52.
  • Masco, J. (2018) The Six Extinctions: Visualizing Planetary Ecological Crisis Today. After Extinction. Edited by Richard Grunion. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, pp. 71-106.
  • Miller, T. (2018) Greenwashing Culture, Abingdon: Routledge.
  • O’Neill, S. (2013). Image matters: Climate change imagery in US, UK and Australian newspapers. Geoforum, 49, 10–19.
  • Pink, S., Abram, S., Ortar, N. and Waltorp, K, eds. (2023) Energy Futures: Anthropocene Challenges, Emerging Technologies and Everyday Life. Berlin: De Gruyter.
  • Rodgers, H. (2013) Green Gone Wrong: Dispatches From the Front Lines of Eco-Capitalism. London: Verso
  • Uhlin, G. (2016) Sustainable Filmmaking: Understanding Image as Resource. Teaching Media Quarterly, 4(3): 1-11.


  • Environmental Communication
  • Media + Environment
  • Journal of Environmental Media

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Key words search

Communications, climate, media, infrastructure, digital, film, crisis, environment, Capitalism, Green, celebrity